October 29, 2009
. During the meeting with Iran’s new ambassador to the Holy See, Benedict XVI sent a clear message.
The Pope says the deep spiritual and religious tradition of Iran should lead to deeper cooperation with the rest of the world.
Benedict XVI told the ambassador that believers of all religions must defend and promote fundamental human values. He stressed the freedom of religion and freedom of conscience and suggested there are other areas of collaboration between believers like promoting the culture of life, justice and solidarity.
The pope also recalled that Catholics are present in Iran since the early centuries of Christianity and have always been an important part of the culture of the nation. That’s why Benedict XVI called on Iranian authorities to ensure freedom of Christians to profess their faith.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has more than 71 million people. According to the government, there are 70,000 Christians in which 17,000 are Catholic. While a certain type of freedom of worship exists in Iran, public expression of Christian faith is prohibited and converting from Islam to Catholicism is illegal.